Super Bowl Weekend – Section II High School Football
It’s Super Bowl weekend in Section II football. The Columbia at Shenendehowa battle for the Class AA championship will kick off the schedule on Friday at 7 p.m. at Steuerwald Stadium.
Shenendehowa enters the game with a 9-0 record and will try to bring head coach Brent Steuerwald his 11th sectional title.
This is Steuerwald’s 44th and final season on the Shen sidelines.
Shen won its last sectional championship in 2003 and Steuerwald obviously wants to go out in style.
“We have a combination of talent and speed and we’re solid. Right now, we have a good mesh of juniors and seniors together. It’s our last game on this field and the focus is on the kids. We take one step at a time. We’re going from one extreme to the other preparing for the last two games. LaSalle threw the ball 35-40 times last week (in the semifinals) and Columbia runs maybe eight out of 10 plays. They run right at you. The two are totally contrasting preparations,” said Steuerwald.
On the other side, first-year coach Craig Cavotta has done a great job with the Columbia program putting together an 8-1 mark.
“Shen is one of the top programs in all of Section II. We are thankful and fortunate to have the opportunity to play them. The kids have worked hard all season. We look forward to the opportunity to be playing in the Super Bowl,” said Cavotta.
This is Cavotta’s eighth year in the program, but first as head coach. The Blue Devils have finished 2-7 the past two years.
“He’s (Cavotta) turned the program around. I think he starts seven juniors and obviously the running back (Christopher Smith) is an outstanding player. He has great acceleration and very strong. He likes to work toward the sideline. He’s probably one of the top backs in Section II,” said Steuerwald. “They (Columbia) have great size across the line. They absorb blocks very well. They’re a good tackling team. The coach does a good job training and teaching the kids. I think they have an upbeat group of kids coming up and who knows how long they can sustain excellence.”
Both teams feature outstanding running backs. Tony Fusco does the bulk of the work for Shen scoring 25 touchdowns while on the other side Smith has reached the end zone 19 times.
“Since I’ve been in the program, we’ve never had a winning record. The goal was to get better and try to achieve our first winning record since 2003. It will be a tough game. They (Shenendehowa) have a great back in Fusco and an unbelievable defense. They fly to the ball on defense and are very patient on offense. When on offense, we need to continue to minimize the number of mistakes we make. On defense, we need to get a lot of people to the ball. It takes more than one guy to take their backs down,” said Cavotta.
Class A Championship
Ever since losing to Amsterdam, 23-7, the second week of the season, Burnt Hills has worked hard to get another shot at the Rugged Rams.
They got it.
Burnt Hills head coach Matt Shell says that game is in the past and his team looks to win another Super Bowl.
“We had a chance in week two. We’re improving and knew what we had to do to get back to the Super Bowl. I thought Amsterdam would be a good team in leadership and good kids. I always liked them and they’re well-coached. They have playmakers all over the field. They’re good athletes and that’s big. They do a lot of things that put you in situations,” said Shell.
Tom Ruppel has scored 12 touchdowns and Daniel Porter nine to pace the Spartans which have won three straight Class A championships and will appear in their sixth consecutive Super Bowl.
“It’s really a new group of kids, experiencing it for the first time. The last three weeks have been huge. The kids have had to grow up in a hurry. It’s a good game for Section 2 football. We’re excited. It’s going to be fun,” said Shell.
Amsterdam (9-0) knows that Burnt Hills (8-1) has definitely improved since the second game and is looking for a big challenge.
“They’re much better. The quarterback (Ryan McDonnell) throws the ball well and runs it well, too. They do a few more things. They have a lot of depth. As for us, I think we got better on offense. This team hasn’t been in a big game like this and it concerns me. They’ve handled things all year, we’ll see,” said Amsterdam head coach Pat Liverio.
Quarterback Vinny Sobkowich engineers the offense. Brett Stanavich is the featured runner with nine touchdowns while Sobkowich is next at eight. And the Rugged Rams have a stubborn defense that has allowed just 55 points.
“We knew we’d be good. We just didn’t know they would be this good. I hope we can handle the magnitude of this game. There is a revenge factor (for Burnt Hills). (Chris) Carbone has stepped it up the last three weeks and the quarterback (Sobkowich) has too. It’s not been one or two guys,” said Liverio, who will retire at season’s end.
Class B Championship
Unbeaten Schalmont will face a stern test against Albany Academy.
The Sabres are aiming for their third straight sectional title and will bring a 9-0 record into the game. Albany Academy (7-2) is the only team in the championship games that has lost twice.
Most of the attention for Schalmont centers around quarterback Niko Nicoletti and backs Alex Hildebrand and Devon Willis. Hildebrand has scored 18 touchdowns and Willis 16.
“Albany Academy reminds me of our team two years ago with Vince Gallo at the helm. Conner Hartigan is an outstanding athlete who is an obvious leader on the field. Their line is one of the most physical and imposing in Section II, let alone Class B. They play great defense and score enough to put their defense in positions to win the game,” said Schalmont head coach Joe Whipple.
Hartigan has delivered 26 touchdowns so far this season.
“Conner is surrounded by athletes that do enough to respect them which makes Academy even more dangerous. After playing them the last three years, I think this is their best ‘team’. They seem to have the little intangibles that they did not present in the past. It is going to be a battle on Saturday. On our side, we have to continue to play defense and be able to sustain drives. We have been inconsistent all year on offense and if we are Saturday, they will win. In order for us to have a chance, we need to score early and often,” said Whipple.
Academy is preparing for the biggest challenge of the season and head coach Tony Fruscio knows what lies ahead.
“Schalmont is two-time defending championships and the measure for all Class B programs. The Academy defense played well holding Hudson Falls and Cobleskill to six points in the playoffs. Mike Paparian had a sack and interception last week. The offense was led by Conner, but other offensive weapons stepped up. To be successful, the Cadets will have to be sound in all aspects, offense, defense and special teams,” he said.
Class C Championship
High-scoring Hoosick Falls seeks its third consecutive sectional championship against Fonda-Fultonville in a game of unbeatens.
Hoosick Falls is 9-0 and has put together 450 points. Tanner Williams and Brad Burns lead the offense with 26 and 23 touchdowns, respectively.
“Fonda is extremely balanced on offense. They are proficient at running and passing the ball. Their defense is very solid with a group of players that hustle to the ball carrier. We will have to be very disciplined and patient to beat them. We will need a total team effort on both sides of the ball. Our offensive line will have to repeat the strong performance they turned in last week as well. Defensively, we will have to continue to get a lot of tacklers on the ball carrier and try to force turnovers,” said Hoosick Falls head coach Ron Jones.
Wally Kowalski has spearheaded the 8-0 Braves’ offense with 14 touchdowns and Jarett Ladd has contributed 11.
“We expect a tough, physical game. They (Hoosick Falls) are a very good team, we need to execute and block on offense and get off blocks and tackle on defense,” said F-F head coach Tom Carpenter. I would say that they are the best team that we have played so far. We are concerned about their balance on offense and their overall team speed.”
Class D Championship
Unbeaten Cambridge (9-0) is one of the unbeaten teams in Section II and want to stay that way after meeting Rensselaer.
Skyler Saunders leads Cambridge with 25 touchdowns, Aaron Mulready has 12 and William Bromirski is ready to contribute kicking 37 extra points.
Rensselaer (8-1) features Brandon Butler as its top scorer posting eight touchdowns.
These teams met in the 2010 championship game and Cambridge prevailed, 35-0.
Section II Football Super Bowls
Friday, Nov. 4
Columbia at Shenendehowa, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 5
Cambridge vs. Rensselaer at Schuylerville, 1 p.m.
Schalmont vs. Albany Academy at Shenendehowa, 3 p.m.
Amsterdam vs. Burnt Hills at Shenendehowa, 7 p.m.
Hoosick Falls vs. Fonda-Fultonville at Stillwater, 7:30 p.m.
State ranked teams
Class AA-4. Shenendehowa, 20. Columbia
A-8. Amsterdam, 14. Burnt Hills, 20. Troy
C-2. Hoosick Falls, 8. Fonda-Fultonville, 19. Watervliet
D-6. Cambridge, 11. Rensselaer
Article by Mike Collar